NOBU 

A storytelling tool to develop empathy in young children.

Centre for Digital Media 

Semester One - Mockup Industry Project

This was a six-week project with a team comprised of five students. This assignment was created by the school to prepare students for the following semester. A prototype was presented to the school at the end of the six weeks. 

Role 

Tools Used: 

Content Developer & UX Designer
Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, Illustrator

Nobu is an interactive storytelling tool that aims to curb pre-bullying behaviours in an elementary school by fostering empathy and care in children aged 6-8 years old.

WHY

Bullying is a behavior that typically begins in elementary school. It happens in situations where

an adult might not always be present.

 

Through our research, we found that instances of bullying are less common in a kind and empathetic community setting.

 

Hence, educating and nurturing these

tendencies in children at a young age when they are most impressionable might help reduce

occurrences of bullying in the later years of childhood.

Design Process

Facilitated by teachers in a group setting in a classroom environment, Nobu contains stories about different kinds of bullying, ranging from cyber to physical and emotional.

 

Each story has multiple points where the child has an option to take action from multiple choices presented to them in order for the story to move forward. Each action has a resulting change in the storyline.

Our group felt as if the topic of bullying was white noise to most people, and that an obvious answer by many was "of course bullying is bad." 

 

This made the iteration process somewhat lengthy as we had to think outside of the box, to make the end product different from the many campaigns out there. 

Our initial idea of a game with a rich narrative quickly turned into an interactive story where the user would learn from multiple narratives. 

 

 

We figured that a game might take away from the message, and rather an interactive story would be more effective on this front. 

 

 

Ultimately, our group envisioned these stories to be utilized in a classroom setting where the teacher would provide feedback afterwards via data. 

For the purpose of our six-week project, our scope was focused on completing one interactive story. This came in the form of sloths. Our thought behind this was to show young children that anyone can be a bully, even a gentle sloth. 

Initially, children would follow the story of multiple perspectives and learn from situations that they would be forced to act upon. 

Early on the multiple perspective feature became obsolete. The feedback we got, was that it wasn't clear and that one point of view would be more impactful. 

We then focused on the bystander who became 'Tony' in our story. 

After user testing with our previous iterations, we made a huge assumption that young children don't know how to identify bullying. We were proven wrong for the most part. 

This is when the bystander idea came into play. How would a child react when he/she was in a situation when someone else was getting bullied rather than themselves? Would they step in and help or mind their own business? 

My Contributions 

1. Script & Story Map  

My biggest role in this project was creating the script for each character and the overall narrative arc.

I originally came up with the sloth concept to try and create a sense of humor and a realization that anyone is capable of bullying no matter how they look on the outside. 

My role was to develop a fleshed out narrative map that would cover every decision that the user could make. The biggest challenge was overcoming dead-end decision branches. Something had to arise from every choice the user made or else there would be no value for it in the story. 

This story went through many iterations and it continues to be worked upon to make it as fluid and justifiable as possible. 

2. UX Design mockups   

I worked alongside the very talented animators on our team to align the story with the on-screen visuals. 

To do this, I would make very low-fidelity storyboards to convey the shots and angles for the story to be told. 

 

This would be showcased every week and decided upon democratically by the entire team. 

 

The sloths at the end of the day had to convey some human traits for users to connect with them.  

Challenges & Solutions

1. Finding balance

Kids are smarter than they look. We originally made the assumption that the decisions that the user has to make in the story need to be as clear as possible.  

After testing with some of the faculty's children, we realized that they knew how to identify explicit bullying and made the correct decision every time. 

Solution

This was close to the time where we focused on the story from the perspective of the bystander. Seeing the story from this lens allowed us to create a more ambiguous case of bullying, which then made it more challenging for children to identify. 

Bullying isn't always apparent in public, sometimes it is behind closed doors or disguised as humor. This learning lesson for our group was crucial to the success of the project. 

2. Engagement  

As a group of young adults, we tried to imagine what would be fun and entertaining for children. In doing so, we innately pictured ourselves as children and tried to imagine what was captivating back then. 

Things have changed since then obviously, and looking back we should have taken that more into account. When we were kids, we had access to limited time to laptops which were groundbreaking.

 

Nowadays, students in elementary schools have access to so much more and therefore their expectations are that much higher. 

Solution

After we presented our final prototype to the CDM we realized that if this project were to go forward, another feature would have to be implemented to up the stakes. 

As a group, we were proud of what we created but this interactive story was still lacking more of an impactful feedback feature. Students get to see the story play out dependent on their own decisions but is that engaging enough nowadays? 

Should a reward system be put into place to motivate students more effectively? These are the thoughts our team had at the end of this project.